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‘He was a good guy’: Friends of man killed in Gaines St. stabbing speak out

‘He was a good guy’: Friends of man killed in Gaines St. stabbing speak out
Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 11:03 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - New details have emerged surrounding the murder of a man on Gaines Street last week.

Police have not officially identified the victim, but friends told WCTV that he was Keith Stafford, a friendly transient who was well-known in the downtown district.

“He was very talented,” said Raymond Myers, who described Stafford as his best friend. “He was an artist. He could draw like nobody I have seen in my life.”

Myers said he and Stafford had lived in the area for several years until last Thursday when Stafford was found stabbed to death on the doorstep of a vacant business. Initially, investigators were calling it a “suspicious death,” but on Wednesday, the Tallahassee Police Department confirmed it was a stabbing.

“I miss him. He was a good guy,” said Myers.

Myers told WCTV’s Katie Kaplan that he had moved from his normal sleeping spot around 3 a.m. the morning of the murder, after being bothered by a third man who was acting erratically. Stafford was across the street. His body was found around 7 a.m., according to TPD.

“I shouldn’t have left,” Myers said. “I kind of feel guilty about that.”

The gruesome discovery was painful for many people who frequent the area, which is just down the block from the eclectic Railroad Square and Florida State University’s Collegetown.

“I think I’m still grieving. I think about him,” said Paul Rutkovsky, a former FSU professor and owner of ‘The Plant.’

The artist’s collective is a bright yellow building located a few yards from where Stafford’s body was found. It is described as an all-inclusive creative space, where everyone is welcomed. Rutkovsky said it also provides outreach for those who are “houseless” and in need of food and clothing. A sign in the window spouts rhetoric about the fight to establish affordable housing in the city.

“It’s not easy at all,” he said in talking about Stafford’s living conditions. “And it was an ongoing struggle for Keith.”

Rutkovsky, who said he has occupied a workspace on Gaines Street for 30 years, recalled how he got to know Stafford about 15 years ago, even showcasing some of his artwork at the University.

“We would sit around and doodle and draw and talk,” he said. “It was very satisfactory for me at that time, a great feeling to see how exhibiting his artwork there at FSU motivated him.”

Rutkovsky said in recent years Stafford would often sit on the brick wall outside the building.

Now, instead of Stafford’s presence, there is a makeshift memorial created by those who cared. It includes Stafford’s artwork, flowers and candles, and a handwritten letter that begins, “Dear Keith, I’m so sorry we failed you.”

On Friday, July 9 at 6 p.m., The Plant will host a vigil in honor of Stafford’s memory. Anyone who would like to attend is invited to do so.

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